Welcome to Monaco May. As we count down the days to the launch of the first limited edition 50th Anniversary Monaco, we have a special series of posts for you this month all focused on TAG Heuer’s most iconic model: the Monaco. Last week we looked at the Monaco Sixty-Nine, and today we cast our eyes back 10 years to the 40th Anniversary Monaco from 2009. This is the watch that serves as the best reference when we get our first look at the 50th Anniversary models in just a few weeks time. Models? Yes, rather than a single 50th Anniversary Monaco, TAG Heuer will launch five limited editions in 2019, one for each decade.
The 40th Anniversary Monaco was a limited edition of just 1,000 watches announced at Baselworld 2009 as part of a revamped Monaco range. But this was not your typical Monaco, with a super-premium price of US$10,000 (almost double the then-new Calibre 12 watches) and featuring a unique case/ crystal combination and the first use in the modern Monaco of a Calibre 11 movement.
The 40th Anniversary Monaco established a new design language for the Monaco heritage series that continues through to today’s Monaco range, as well as being the ultimate tribute to the famous Monacos of the past. So fair to say that the bar has been set high for the 50th Anniversary newcomers.
A brief history of the Monaco “McQueen” Re-editions
Before we dive into the 2009 Monaco, let’s first look back over the modern history of the blue-dial Monacos, all of which are a play on the design of the original blue dial Monaco 1133B as worn by Steve McQueen in Le Mans.
2003-2008: Monaco Calibre 17 CW2113
Perhaps surprisingly, it took TAG Heuer six years from the relaunch of the Monaco (1997) to get around to issuing a blue-dial, two-register watch. The CW2113 used a 38mm stainless steel case with a Calibre 17 movement and a plexiglass crystal.
The dial on these watches is a deep metallic blue, reminiscent of the very first Chronomatic Calibre 11 Monaco from 1969.
2009- 2018: Monaco Calibre 12 CAW2111
The 40th Anniversary update of the Monaco series in 2009 introduced the Calibre 12 movement and a new, larger 39mm case, including a clear caseback for the first time. Another significant upgrade was the use of a sapphire crystal replacing the plexi-glass.
Ref. CAW211 was sold alongside the similar Calibre 11 CAW211P blue Monaco (see below) from 2015-2018, before being quietly discontinued.
2015- Present: Monaco Calibre 11 CAW211P
In 2015 TAG Heuer launched a new Calibre 11 Monaco that was closely based on the 40th Anniversary model. Very closely. In fact, the only two real differences between the watches are the larger 39mm case on the CAW211P (vs. 38mm on the CAW211A) and the metal frame on the date window on the 40th Anniversary watch. That date window is quickest way to tell which heritage-style blue Monaco you’re looking at. As you can see on the photos above, its a white-painted border on the CAW211P.
There have been several limited edition Monaco models over the last few years, the majority based on the CAW211P, such as these examples.
The word on the street is that the we’ll soon see a replacement for the Calibre 12 Monaco (CAW2111) in addition to the five LE watches. The details are still confidential, but watch this space.
2009 Monaco Calibre 11 CAW211A
To cut to the chase, we think that the 40th Anniversary Monaco is the pick of the modern Monacos that stretch back to 1997.
No, it’s not as ground-breaking as the first re-edition (CS2110) that set the template for the re-birth of the Monaco with a new dial design never used on a historical model, but it does the best job of bringing together the new and the vintage. It’s the only 38mm Monaco you can buy with a sapphire crystal, and we do think that the smaller case works better than the larger 39mm case models that followed- but that comes down to personal tastes.
When the watch was first launched it was hard to get comfortable with the asking price of US$10,000, but the value of these have held up remarkably well over the years and they still command a healthy premium over the “standard” CAW211P Calibre 11 watch. Yes, the differences are small, but ask any Rolex collector about the difference that red text can make to the value of a Submariner relative to white text and you remind yourself that small differences can have a major impact on collectability in the world of watches.
Up Close- Monaco 40th Anniversary
What makes the watch so special is that it brought together for the first time the classic dial of the 1133B Monaco with the case of the modern Monaco re-editions and being the first time that a modern incarnation of the Calibre 11 movement (meaning the crown on the left-hand side of the case) was offered. Left-hand crowns are something special to Heuer collectors, as they ape the design of the 1970s Calibre 11 Autavia/ Monaco/ Carrera and there is no surer sign of a TAG Heuer’s lean towards heritage than the appearance of the crown on the “wrong side” of the case.
The major difference between this dial and the previous “McQueen Monacos” is the use of the flat, pale blue dial found on all vintage 1133B watchces bar the very first Chronomatic and Transitional watches from 1969/ 70.
Colour side, the other key difference on the dial is the user of horizontal steel markers rather than the angled hour markers of the previous McQueen watches.
The 40th Anniversary Monaco also got a new set of hands to distinguish it from the Calibre 17 and 12 “McQueens”- out go the all-steel hands with red sub-dial hands, and in come red-filled steel hands and black sub-dial hands- again a callback to the 1970s original.
The watch was sold in a special presentation box with an extra alligator strap and a very neat Heuer-branded strap changing tool. Not that you need the strap changing tool for the standard calfskin strap, because that strap can be changed without any tool thanks to the “quick change” lever you see above. Also part of the sales package was a Steve McQueen book called Unforgettable Steve McQueen.
Turn the watch over and you see what is one of the nicest all-steel casebacks on a modern TAG Heuer. Not only do we get the fantastic red Heuer shield, but also Jack Heuer’s signature along with the limited edition number.
Regular readers know that we’re very fussy on the details on watches, and there’s almost always a small detail that we’d change on a watch, for example removing text on the dial, or maybe making hour-markers smaller or larger. But the only thing we’d change on the 40th Anniversary Monaco is the chronograph pushers, where we’d love to see a homage to the original circular pushers. But that would involve a significant re-design of the case, so it would have been a complex change to put through. But apart from that, the CAW211A Monaco is perfect.
Straps- Reference EB0030
TAG Heuer also offered an optional box of five leather straps to fit to the 40th Anniversary Monaco, priced around US$2,000. You can still find a few of these around and you can see the blue strap above right fitted to the Monaco in a few of the wrist shots below.
There’s no question that the 2009 Monaco 40th Anniversary Edition has stood the test of time. It remains our favourite modern Heuer Monaco and is still worth the premium over the similar CAW211P, even if the differences are minimal.
It’s hard to see that TAG Heuer will launch a 50th Anniversary watch also based on the 1133B, as the 40th Anniversary watch has this space covered. Doing such a good job 10 years ago does somewhat restrict the design options for the 2019 watches.
While we’ll see the first of the 2019 Monaco Anniversary watches in the next few weeks, it will take some months before we see all five watches and can properly make our assessment of the 50th Anniversary editions. But we can say that they’ll have to be something quite special to sit alongside the wonderful 40th Anniversary edition from 2009. We’re hopeful they will.